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The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System™ (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.

Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 68.76
Liaison Kimberly Williams
Submission Date Feb. 27, 2015
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

George Washington University
IN-4: Innovation 4

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 1.00 Kathleen Merrigan
Executive Director of Sustainability
Office of the Provost
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Title or keywords related to the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:
Exploring ways to use solar energy to generate wealth in lower income communities

A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:

One of the GW Solar Institute's major focus areas is researching and offering solutions to the challenges of creating public programs and policies that spur the installation of solar panel systems for low-income households. While solar energy has become increasingly affordable and accessible, most of these installations are occurring in relatively well-off neighborhoods. Less affluent Americans have much to gain from solar energy’s financial benefits, but multiple market barriers ranging from lack of homeownership to lower credit scores currently make it difficult for many Americans to make this important sustainability investment. This is an important issue; low-income residents spend a higher percentage of their income on energy bills, and so they would benefit financially from using solar energy.

A brief description of any positive measurable outcomes associated with the innovation (if not reported above):

Low-Income Solar Roundtable
On April 9, 2014, the GW Solar Institute hosted a Roundtable that engaged more than 70 key stakeholders from the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, including government representatives, community advocates, and leaders from the solar, finance, and housing industries. Together, the group discussed and developed recommendations for scaling the deployment of solar to benefit low-income District of Columbia residents.

After discussing several possible frameworks to leverage incoming funds, participants concluded that supporting a private sector-administered loan guarantee program to fund community solar projects, with a direct dollar-per-watt incentive for low-income participants, would provide the most leverage of limited government dollars. This would provide the best opportunity for local solar installers, and raise the likelihood of increasing wealth in lower income District communities.

Following the Roundtable, the GW Solar Institute authored a White Paper detailing the Roundtable’s consensus recommendations and shared it with key decision-makers such as Washington, D.C. Mayor Gray, City Council Members, and the District Department of the Environment (DDOE).

2014 Solar Symposium
The GW Solar Institute hosted its 6th annual Solar Symposium on September 23, 2014. The theme, "Using Solar Energy to Generate Wealth in Lower Income Communities," was the first national conference that convened stakeholders and decision-makers from across the country to share and develop the emerging solutions needed to achieve solar affordability and accessibility for all Americans.

The Symposium focused on the best ways to broaden the solar market through creative incentive and financing solutions, elimination of legal and regulatory barriers, and integration of solar investments with existing federal low-income programs. More than 170 people attended the 2014 Solar Symposium and 265 people from 33 states and 19 countries tuned in to the Livestream.

Following the Symposium, the GW Solar Institute released a comprehensive Working Paper, Bridging the Solar Income Gap. The Working Paper provides a synopsis of the Symposium discussion and provides several specific policy recommendations and tools that federal, state, and local policymakers could use to expand lower income solar markets. The Working Paper has received positive media coverage and serves as a starting point for addressing the solar income gap.

A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise:
Which of the following STARS subcategories does the innovation most closely relate to? (Select all that apply up to a maximum of five):
Yes or No
Curriculum ---
Research Yes
Campus Engagement Yes
Public Engagement Yes
Air & Climate ---
Buildings ---
Dining Services ---
Energy Yes
Grounds ---
Purchasing ---
Transportation ---
Waste ---
Water ---
Coordination, Planning & Governance ---
Diversity & Affordability Yes
Health, Wellbeing & Work ---
Investment ---

Other topic(s) that the innovation relates to that are not listed above:

The website URL where information about the innovation is available:

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.